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Lord Whitty: The A44 is not a trunk road and as such is not the responsibility of the Secretary of State but of the local highway authority/ies, in this case Herefordshire Council and Worcestershire County Council. The two authorities were awarded £3.472 million and £4.861 million respectively in the local transport plan settlement for 2000-01, and it is for those authorities to decide within those sums how they wish to allocate resources for transport improvements within their respective areas. Neither authority submitted proposals for major improvement schemes to the A44.
Lord Whitty: The data for housing provision by registered social landlords in settlements of under 3,000 people relates to financial years. There were 1,664 completions in England in 1997-98 and 1,283 in 1998-99: figures for 1999-2000 are not yet available.
The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): In the process of franchise replacement, the assessment of proposals to improve passenger services will take into account any effects on rail freight. The franchise replacement consultation process will include the views of both freight operators and passengers.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: The Rail Regulator is currently undertaking work to investigate to what extent suitable comparisons can be made between Railtrack and overseas railway operators. He will take this work into consideration in reaching his final conclusions on the periodic review of Railtrack's access charges.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): As SEAC reported in a news release of 16 March, agent strain typing is under way on isolates from over 130 brains of sheep with natural scrapie in order to determine whether the BSE agent profile exists. Although incomplete (each study takes up to two years) the analysis of over 30 isolates is advanced enough to suggest that they do not have the characteristics associated with the BSE agent.
Baroness Hayman: SEAC has suggested that MAFF should draw up operational plans to deal with the possibility of BSE occurring in sheep. SEAC has not recommended a cull or called upon MAFF to plan for one.
Baroness Hayman: Where agrimonetary compensation is optional, 50 per cent is funded by the EU and 50 per cent from national funds. Around 71 per cent of the EU contribution is funded by the UK taxpayer as a result of the Fontainebleau rebate. The taxpayer also funds 100 per cent of the UK contribution. Thus, paying both the EU and the national contribution would require a total contribution by the British taxpayer of about 85 per cent.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Government have made application to the European Commission to introduce a state aid to assist in the restructuring of the United Kingdom's pig industry. The aim of the
Government have also previously made an extra £400,000 available in Northern Ireland for the better marketing of pigmeat. Discussions are ongoing with the industry as to how best this funding can be utilised.
Selective financial assistance (SFA) from the Industrial Development Board (IDB) may be available for strategic capital projects or revenue investments which meet certain key criteria and which will enhance companies' international competitiveness. In addition
The Business Excellence Programme uses benchmarking to compare business performance against the competition and the best companies in the sector; the International Partnership Programme can help companies achieve global success through a strategic alliance with an overseas company; and Trade International, IDB's marketing arm, offers companies assistance in finding new markets via a programme of participation in overseas trade shows, visits to new overseas target markets, meet-the-buyer events, exporting seminars and the Overseas Trade Adviser Programme. For companies with under 250 employees, Trade International's market entry grant scheme may also be appropriate to stimulate marketing development.
In addition to IDB's range of assistance, the Industrial Research and Technology Unit (IRTU) can offer grant assistance towards eligible R&D and new product development projects. The Department of Further and Higher Education, Training and Employment, through the T &EA, can offer grant assistance for approved training plans via its company development programme.
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